One Week Later...
Rei sat in a folding chair in Dr. Foch's lab, staring at the tank in front of her that was filled with orange-glowing LCL. Inside there were now three bodies that silently floated along the length of the tank.
The lights in the laboratory were dim but just bright enough for Rei to see Shinji walking towards her, holding another folding chair in his hands. When he reached her Shinji unfolded the chair and sat down right next to her. Rei had a book in her hands and was reading as she waited, while Shinji pulled out his S-DAT music player. "How do you think they're doing?" he asked Rei.
"I cannot tell," she told him flatly, and went back to her reading. Shinji looked inside the tank from the chair, watching as Asuka and Patrick's bodies went silently gliding by, Patrick with a mask over his face while the left side of Asuka's head and most of her abdomen was also covered up by bandages. Mari hovered just above them as all three remained dead to the outside world, and just barely alive as they floated in the LCL.
Patrick felt a strange sensation of warmth on his face, finding himself in an unfamiliar place. Looking all around his surroundings at first seemed like some sort of island on an alien planet. The oceans were colored red, the sky above was bright blue, but there was no sun or moon that he could see. He saw that his feet were planted on rocky ground on a cliff, and down below he could see red waves crash onto a sandy beach just a few feet below him.
"Hallo there!" a voice called to him and he looked up. Up in the sky was Mari, she was without her glasses or hairband and her chestnut-colored hair was flowing long behind her. She appeared completely naked to Patrick, and he could see white, feathered wings on her back that were slowly flapping to keep her airborne.
"Lusty!" Patrick called out to her. "What are you doing up there?"
"I'm flying," she exclaimed excitedly. "It's terrific! You can see so much from up here!"
"You're naked!" he shouted to her.
"I know, isn't it wonderful?" Mari replied back. "You don't need any clothes in this place!"
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know! I'm just to going to fly around a bit, I think," she said in a cheerful tone. "There's some other island but it's a bit far off, I'm not sure if I want to go that far yet!"
"Well, be careful wherever you end up going!" said Patrick.
"Don't worry about me, old chum!" she said back to him. "Just enjoy yourself while you're here!" With that she spread her wings and flew off into the distance.
After seeing Mari fly off to the other side of the island, Patrick started to explore his surroundings more and walk towards some bushes and vegetation that he saw a few yards behind the cliff. He noticed as he walked that he himself was also naked, but despite that he didn't feel either cold or uncomfortable in any way. There were some palm trees that he saw a little further away from the bushes and he decided to go there next.
On the way to the palm trees he pushed through some heavy brush, noticing that the ground below was now soft dirt and not rocky as before. As he looked upwards again to see where he was headed Patrick noticed that Asuka now stood right in front of him. Naked as he was, her A10s gone from her flaming red hair, her facial expression was one of frustration.
"Asuka!" he said, surprised to see her.
"Get out of my way, stupid!" she shot back. "I'm trying to find the way out of here!"
"I don't think it's that way," he pointed out to where he had just come from. "That's just a cliff. This is an island, you know."
"Then I'll just swim off it then," she said in a huff, and then she made her way past him and into the bushes that he had just emerged from. Patrick sighed as she went away. "Good luck with that," he said under his breath.
For a few minutes he continued towards the palm trees and then beyond reached a lagoon comprised of red and green waters mixed together. With the swirling colors, the waters were a surreal sight but he paid no real mind and then started making his way around the edge of the lagoon, looking for any one or any thing else that was familiar to him. After a while of exploring he looked up towards the edge of the lagoon where it met the shoreline on the other side of the island and saw the figure of another person sitting silently on some rocks at the water's edge, searching out towards the red ocean that surrounded them. The silent woman was slender with skin that was pearl white, and her short hair was azure blue. To Patrick she looked much like Rei but not exactly the same as this woman looked slightly larger and older, and her breasts were more fully formed.
Patrick made his way to the woman and then without saying anything sat down next to her, joining her on the rock that she was perched on. As they watched the red tides come in they were both silent for a long moment before she finally spoke to him in a whisper-like voice.
"Do you know who I am?" she asked him.
"You're the one inside of Rei," Patrick told her, "and inside of me, too, I guess." The woman nodded in confirmation. "What is this place?" he asked her.
"Sort of a waiting room," she told him, "to determine what direction you need to go from here."
"It's nice here," he said, "quite peaceful." The woman said nothing in return and just looked out at the ocean.
After another long period of silence she spoke to Patrick again. "Why do you love her?" she asked him.
"She's the pearl of great price," he replied.
"What do you mean by that?"
"There's a story about a guy who discovers a pearl so beautiful, so out of this world that he's got to have it for himself. To have it," Patrick explained further, "he has to give up everything he owns, everything he has. He does it, he pays the price, and what he gets in return is heaven, heaven at the cost of Earth."
Patrick paused for a bit and then went further in his explanation. "When I first saw her, I knew she was from heaven and not earth, but to have her I had to give up Earth to get her, even if that meant someday I couldn't be on Earth anymore myself. Such was the price I needed to pay." He shrugged his shoulders and looked at the girl next to him. "And, so, here I am."
The blue-haired woman stared out into the ocean for a moment and then spoke again. "She did not feel she was capable of being together with an 'other' until she met you," she said. "Even then, to her love of this kind was something that she had considered impossible for herself. It took time but you reached out to her despite the difficulties in doing so."
"I'm glad I did it," he told her. "I'm glad she could feel that way in the end. I was so happy to see her realize that she was loved and that she could love herself, even if it was just in the little things she did."
"Those little things had great meaning," said the blue-haired woman. "Could you continue to bear it? To realize that a lifetime with her could be a never-ending series of challenges that you would have to face?"
Patrick again shrugged. "I could," he told her. "Besides, I guess once you've had a taste of heaven there's really no going back, is there? Despite everything that's happened, there's a lot of great things about her too," he told the girl. "Most importantly, I don't think I could ever have a better friend than Rei and once I discovered that's what I really saw in her it made everything easy."
"You will face more challenges if you continue on, " she said, now turning to face Patrick. "Not challenges like EVA, but ones more personal. There will still be many times of difficulty, even of loneliness and despair. You will have to continue to bear those things to be together."
"Then we'll aim for the good times," Patrick responded, "and use that to carry through." The woman didn't reply at first but looked out again towards the red ocean. After a while she spoke to him one more time.
"You are uniquely challenged, Patrick Forrestal, but you are also uniquely blessed as well. Use these gifts wisely, patiently, and you will inherit Earth as well as Heaven."
"I really don't care about any of that," he told the her softly. "But...but I just want to go back." The woman who looked like Rei didn't say anything but instead knelt on the rock and held his face in her hands, softly caressing it as she looked at him with curious eyes. She then closed her own eyes and gently breathed on his face, the warmth of her breath reaching his skin and making it tingle. Patrick felt relaxed all over and closed his eyes, and let himself slowly melt away in her hands.
Shinji wearily walked into the pilots' lounge after an entire day of either being in Terminal Dogma at Asuka's side, or going through another session of questioning by members of Alliance Intelligence about what had happened when he had been taken to SEELE-2. He had again told the investigators that he had no memories of the event after being taken from the GeoFront and before being awakened by Asuka while on the floor in SEELE's ceremonial chamber, and after a few more hours of straightforward and persistent interrogation they finally let him go.
He entered the room and saw Hikari by the kitchenette, wearing a yellow apron over a rainbow-striped short-sleeved dress worn with white socks and yellow runners, her hair in twin-tails like she nearly always wore it. On the other side was Toji, who was tossing basketballs into a hoop on the arcade game, and who was back to wearing his blue tracksuit. Shinji himself wore just an older middle school uniform that had still been in his locker until today. He stood at the doorway for about thirty seconds before both of the others saw that he had entered.
"Shinji-kun!" Hikari said in surprise. Neither her or Toji had seen him since he had returned from Norway.
"Shinji! Dude!" Toji abandoned his game and came rushing over to Shinji as he stumbled inside of the room. He saw his face and how tired it was, and then without saying anything further embraced him tightly. The two boys remained like that for a minute as Hikari watched them and prepared tea for everyone.
Both boys landed on a couch and then Hikari came by with a tray and three cups, and gently laid them on an adjoining coffee table. She then removed her apron and sat down next to Toji as the two boys talked.
"How long have you been back?" asked Toji.
"About a week," replied Shinji. "It's kind of a blur, really. I've spent most of it downstairs. I can't even remember when I saw the sun last."
Hikari looked at him with great concern. "How is Asuka? Is she going to be okay?"
"They don't know," he told both of them. "Her internal organs and her left eye were really messed up, so they did transplants and now she's in the LCL tank with Mari and Patrick. Hopefully she can heal the damage."
"She's a tough old girl," commented Toji. "She'll get through it."
"How about the others?" Hikari asked.
"I don't know either. Patrick's got a better chance but they're not sure yet about his skin." The three of them sat and drank green tea for a couple of silent minutes. Everyone had something to say, but no one wanted to be the first with more unpleasant things. Toji finally decided he's be the one to go first, and set his teacup down.
"Have they told you anything since you got back?" Shinji looked at him, his eyes were distant and he felt numb inside. "I know about Kensuke" he said simply.
"Yeah," Toji answered. "Yeah. Well, one thing that we'll never argue about, he definitely went out the way he wanted to!"
The other boy just shrugged. He felt by this point he couldn't cry about it, he had no energy for that at the moment anyway. Instead Shinji just looked away. There was another silent moment among the three of them as Hikari took Toji's hand and they looked at each other.
Deciding that he hated the bad mood in the room, Shinji changed the topic. "What happened at the GeoFront?" he asked the other two. "They said you defended NERV against a Harpy attack."
"Oh, yeah. That!" Toji put his arms around Hikari. "You are looking at NERV's latest, greatest EVA pilot."
"Toji," Hikari scolded, "it wasn't like that at all!"
"You're way too modest," he told her. "You really kicked ass!"
"All I know is that the last time I ever want to do anything like that. Once is enough, thank you."
Toji did the bragging for Hikari. "It was three on one and she completely cleaned their clocks!" he declared.
"Well," she said to Toji, "Having you there too was a big help, being able to look out for trouble while I was piloting. I don't see how anyone should have to pilot one of things by themselves. It's much better with two people!"
Shinji raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You were in the plug?" he asked Toji.
"Got suited up and everything," he told him, thumping his chest with his fist. "I figured, damn I owed Kensuke a lot, and I didn't really to leave Hikari-chan in there all on her own, so I sort of invited myself in." Shinji allowed himself a smile at that as did the others, everyone was finally becoming relaxed as they continued to talk and drink tea. "So you helped her fight, then?"
"Not really like that," explained Toji. "I mostly worked like a second pair of eyes, trying to spot the next target while she was fighting each one of the Harpies in turn."
"Yeah," Hikari added, "and if it wasn't for Shinji's dad we never would have survived." Shinji was very surprised at Hikari's comment. "Wait, what about my dad?"
"Oh, yeah." said Toji as he recalled what else happened that day. "You father was leading the battle at NERV. He told Hikari what to do with the EVA step-by-step. It wasn't easy but in the end we made it!"
Shinji was about to ask something further but then he stopped just before he could open his mouth again, shocked as he was to hear about his father again taking command. "Dad helped you pilot?" he finally sputtered out to Hikari. She nodded affirmatively. "Shinji-kun," she said to him now with a more serious expression, "It's true: Toji and I would have been dead without him."
When Patrick finally came to he was in a hospital bed that he didn't recognize. The room seemed to have a different ambiance than the NERV hospital. The sound was more quiet, the colors more soft, although he couldn't quite put a finger on what the changes were. There were beeps of equipment in the distance. He was unable to move his own body, as he felt like a rock that was sunk inside the hospital bed.
Finally able to move his head he noticed that his face again felt icy and rigid. Bandage, he realized, and then he knew what else might have happened. My face again...
His eyes searched through the holes in his facial bandage and he found her fallen asleep next to his bed, Her head was down on the bed itself, a book in her hands lay flat next to her, and her body slumped from the chair in which she had been sitting in next to him. Patrick concentrated hard and with much effort was able to just slightly move his left hand, enough to touch Rei's own. In an instant her eyes flicked open and she saw him, and then a smile slowly crossed her lips.
"Good morning," she slowly whispered to him in English.
"Oh-Hai-Yo," he said to her in reply, smiling underneath the bandage. He let out a deep breath as she took his hand and waited patiently for him to come to.
"Where...where am I?"
"Hakone General Hospital," Rei replied. Patrick closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on the most important things he needed to know. "Erin?"
"She is alright," Rei told him. "The Alliance has her now."
"I do not know."
"Yes," she nodded, "yes, he is."
"She is damaged but not destroyed."
Patrick tried to form up more questions but felt too tired to come up with any more, even though he was sure there was lots more things that he needed to know. He stuttered, trying to speak until Rei put her finger to his lips and calmed him down.
"Forri, please rest," she said in a gentle voice. "Everything else can wait." He struggled to say something further but found he was too weak to do so, and his head went back on his pillow. Patrick could do little more than just squeeze Rei's hand in his own, and she gently caressed his until he again went asleep.
After Patrick fell unconscious again Rei remained in the room for another hour as he lay peacefully on the hospital bed. Satisfied that he was sleeping deeply she then left the room. It was about three in the morning.
The hospital floor was quiet, the only sounds heard were soft electronic beeps of medical equipment from various rooms or the footsteps of the civilian medical staff who worked there, most of them wearing green-colored scrubs. A few black-suited security guards were also spread throughout the floor. Also standing in the hospital hallway was Misato, who wore her NERV red leather jacket over a grey sweatshirt and khaki shorts worn with low-rise brown leather boots. She looked tired, dark circles under her eyes from lack of sleep. Rei herself wore a white, long-sleeved turtleneck sweater and a long blue plaid-pattern skirt along with blue ballet flats and grey woolen tights, chosen because of the colder temperature of the hospital due to the heavy air conditioning. Rei, still barely awake, went up to Misato to update her.
"Did he wake up?" she asked. Rei nodded. "About an hour ago."
Misato frowned a little. "Did he ask anything?"
"He asked about his sister and uncle. He was too weak to discuss anything else. What will we tell him?"
"We have no choice to tell him everything, once he's able," the older girl replied. "If he hates us after hearing it then that's the price we have to pay for being wrong about him."
Rei again spent the rest of the night in Patrick's room, curled up in one of the seats as he slept deeply, and kept careful watch over him, not really knowing what the future would hold for them both.
After finally getting a few hours of sleep herself Misato woke up the following morning and walked down the hallway to check on her charges. Rei was also awake by then, still at Patrick's side as he remained unconscious, lying face up on the hospital bed. On the previous day they were told by medical staff that his prognosis, even after the LCL therapy in Terminal Dogma, was still precarious and he might never be the same as before.
In another room down the hall slept Shinji. While Shinji was physically in good condition after the attack on SEELE, he has spent many hours remaining by Asuka as she also underwent LCL therapy at NERV. After over a week inside of the tank at Dr. Foch's lab in Terminal Dogma she was to be brought back to Hakone hospital for further recovery and whatever other procedures she needed. Like Patrick, her condition wasn't stable, and no one could assure them that she would recover from her extensive injuries. Misato left Shinji alone to sleep, knowing that he was exhausted from worry.
The room next to Shinji's contained another patient very familiar to her, and fortunately he had after some extensive surgery been able to make a remarkable recovery in the last few days. Seeing him again would certainly help perk up her morning, she figured, and so she entered the room.
Leaning against the hospital bed was Kaji, dressed in blue-pinstriped pajamas as an attractive Japanese nurse in scrubs finished with his bedpan. As Misato came inside he found himself surprised and in an somewhat compromising situation.
"So," Misato said to him in stark tones as she folded her arms, "I leave you alone for a night and here you are having your way with the nurses! I should have known!" The nurse in the room blushed intensely as Kaji gave Misato a knowing look with that friendly smirk she knew from him. The nurse herself apologized to both of them and quickly ran out of the room, not wanting to become involved in any possible altercation between the two.
"She's only attending to my medical needs," Kaji told her. "Apparently they ran all out of male nurses here."
"Well she's seen your package a lot more than I have in the last week," Misato countered, "I think I'm going to need to make sure you keep your focus where it needs to be." Misato then leaned up against Kaji as he sat with his back to the headboard of his hospital bed and gave him a long, lingering kiss on the lips.
"I'm afraid that's all I can do for now," she said with a wink. "You'll have to fully heal first if you want anything else."
"I see then that I have great incentive for a speedy recovery," he replied with a smile.
Misato became more serious and checked Kaji's bandages as he sat at the bed. "Well, you certainly look better then when they brought you in here."
"I can't disagree, although I'll be leaving with a little bit less than I came in with," he replied, pointing to the large bandage patched over his left eye.
"I don't know. I think you'll look sexier with an eye patch, don't you?" Kaji nodded, leaning back and relaxing more in his bed. "How are the others?"
"They brought Patrick back earlier and he was awake for just a few minutes early this morning. Asuka's supposed to be arriving here soon, possibly for more surgery. Mari's still in bad shape."
"Shameful that they have to suffer like this," remarked Kaji. "Anything else?"
Misato stood up and leaned on the wall. "They're letting Gendo Ikari free," she told him. "That and the Alliance is starting up a PR campaign to try to fill in the news now that the war's over."
"Time for that book, then," said Kaji. Misato nodded in agreement. "It's already in the works, though I'll have to get approval on a lot of it. Still an uphill fight to get the truth out, even now."
Kaji's face showed a small grin. "Then it's a good thing someone as persistent as you is the one who gets the tell the tale. Will I be in the book, too?" he asked her.
She bent down and whispered to his hear in a sultry voice. "That book's gonna be adults only, my dear," she said with a smirk.
Shinji woke up at about noon from the hospital bed, realizing only now that he had slept in his clothes from the day before. He went to the small bathroom, quickly showered and then changed into a new set of clothes, a fashionable purple polo shirt and blue jeans left for him by someone else in a department store gift bag, he wasn't sure who. From the room he walked out to the hallway and checked on everything else.
He first stopped in Kaji's room to greet him and catch up on how he was doing and what had happened since Shinji's capture, Kaji telling him some details and then promising to tell many more a bit later on. Afterwards he passed by Patrick's room down the hall, seeing from the doorway that Rei was still sitting there next to him, reading a book and waiting patiently as the heavily-bandaged Patrick rested in the bed. He left the two of them alone.
At the nurses' station Shinji asked one of the staff if Asuka had been brought in yet, and he was told that she was still at Tokyo-3, and again being examined. He made motions to go to be by her side but the nurse then told him that she'd likely be moved to Hakone if everything was successful, and that it might be better if he waited in the hospital instead.
Still wanting to go and at least be closer to Asuka, Shinji looked for Misato but couldn't find her on the hospital floor. He then asked one of his security escorts where she might be and the man suggested looking in the hospital cafeteria five floors below them. The two of them then caught the next elevator car and went down to the second floor, where Shinji made his way to the cafeteria while the guard keep careful watch along along the way.
By two-thirty in the afternoon, the hospital cafeteria was mostly empty with the exception of one or two medical staff members and a food service worker. Shinji looked around more carefully and saw one other woman, leaning against a window while she slept and knew it was Misato.He bought a caffeine-free iced green tea from the cafeteria worker and then quietly walked to where Misato was sleeping peacefully, her head propped on the glass window as she was motionless, drifting in deep sleep from exhaustion. Shinji gently shook her shoulder and after a couple of tries her eyes suddenly opened, surprised at both the interruption and what had happened.
"What..Oh, Shinji it's you," she said groggily as her hands reflexively caressed her belly. "What time is it?"
"It's 2:37 PM," he helpfully pointed out as he sat next to her. Shinji handed her the iced tea can and Misato quickly popped it open and gulped it down. "Shit," she said after taking a long drink. "I've been knocked out here for hours." She looked at him. "Anything happen?"
"Asuka's still at Tokyo-3, another examination and maybe another operation coming."
"I knew about that," said Misato. "They're worried about that eye that's been transplanted. Hopefully it'll work out okay."
"How do you feel?" Shinji asked. "Better, after that little nap," she told him. "I probably am supposed to go check on things upstairs again."
"Kaji was well, I stopped by before I came down here. Patrick is still recovering." Shinji looked down at Misato's hand, which was still placed protectively over her abdomen. "How do you think it's doing?"
"I think he might have woke up right along with me," she said. "I don't know if it's moving but I feel a little bloat there." Misato examined her uniform and frowned a little. "Pretty soon I'm going to need a new wardrobe, aren't I?"
Shinji smiled at her. "I'm sure you'll manage."
"So," she asked him, "are you all back to normal now?" The boy looked at her in a reluctant way. "It feels good to be back," Shinji told her. "I'm at least glad all of the interrogating and examinations are over."
"Well, it's good to have you back," said Misato, running her hand affectionately through Shinji's hair
"Um, Misato," Shinji continued. "About what happened…with Unit 06 and all. I should never have let my guard down like that."
"I think that you've more than made up for that..."
"But still," he protested and said in a mournful voice, "people got hurt...even killed...over how I reacted."
Misato looked at him with a more serious expression now. "Maybe that's true," she told him. "And there's days when I can't help but think of things that I did that might have hurt other people too, even though I was intending to help or do something better. When the JSSDF attacked the GeoFront, at first I gave orders for unarmed NERV personnel to surrender. What I didn't know then was that there were orders to kill everyone, surrender or not." She paused for a bit, letting that sink in as Shinji listened. "Innocent people may have died because of something that I did, despite my best intentions."
"How can you make up for that?" Shinji asked.
Misato was direct. "You can't. Not in the way that we like to think we can, anyway. This was a war, and it's not like in a classroom where everything's made to be fair and in the rules. We're human and we're going to do stupid things because we don't always have the right information." Shinji looked at her reluctantly, still feeling shame over his earlier moment of weakness.
She gently gripped him on the shoulder. "But when push came to shove, and you needed to do the right thing, you did. And you did it the way you needed to: you faced your own fear and your own guilt over killing Kaworu Nagisa and you once and for all put an end to the war. Whatever weakness you might have shown before, you atoned yourself. You killed the last Angel...again, I suppose, and allowed the world to go on, and for everyone to go on living without fear. That's a pretty big accomplishment."
Shinji wasn't yet entirely convinced of Misato's argument. "But you can't bring them back, can you?"
She nodded. "No. But you do them honor by doing your best to keep everyone else safe, and you keep those who couldn't make it to the end in your memory and never forget them either." Misato gave him a slight smile and finally Shinji returned it.
"I honestly didn't think we'd make it all the way to the end," he said to her. "Now it's kind of weird not having to think about piloting for a while." He looked at Misato. "Will I ever have to pilot again?"
"Not if I can help it," she replied. "We accounted for all ten of SEELE's remaining units at their fortress or here at Tokyo-3. Intel says that from what they learned after our assault on SEELE-2 there weren't any other Harpies left, they had gathered up all of their remaining resources into their last attempt at Third Impact. As far as I can tell, we're done."
"What will happen to EVA then?"
"We're still working that out. I think dealing with that is the most important challenge we have. We have to be careful not to ever let EVA fall into the wrong hands. Shinji?" she asked him, her voice in a softer tone. "Have you thought about what you want to do now? Now that it's over?"
"I don't really know," he said. "I don't want to go back to Sensei's, that wasn't ever home for me. If the Alliance lets my Dad out of prison, does that mean I have to go live with him?"
She shook her head. "No, I've made sure of that. Kaji and I have already talked it over, and both you and Rei are welcome to live with us."
His eyes lit up. "Really? You mean it?"
"Well, of course!" she said. "I mean, who else am I going to get to cook and do the laundry?"
"Misato!" Shinji protested.
"I'm joking!" she playfully punched him in the arm. "Yes," she told him. "Please stay with us for as long as you like!" Misato smiled at him and gently ran her hand through his hair again. "Besides, I think by now I've gotten pretty attached to having you around."
Shinji wanted to say something to Misato but couldn't manage it, as he had now become choked up with emotion, his eyes became misty and his face blushed red. She had done just now what she did once before when he had first come to Tokyo-3 and again given him what he had really always wanted all along: a home, and a family.
"It's okay now," she said to him softly as she reached out for him. "Come here, baby." Shinji buried his head in her chest as she held him tight. "It's okay now," she said again as she slowly rocked him and gently stroked his hair while he sobbed and trembled in her arms. "It's over now, Shinji. It's all over."